Students Fight For Their Futures: An Increasing Number of Young People are Taking Part in Activism

Lana Giles, Staff Writer

Across the globe, now more than ever, student-led movements spark and spread awareness on issues that affect the majority of the world. Climate change, women’s rights, education rights, racial equality, gun control, LGBT+ rights, and so many more issues are the topics of debate, protests, and calls for action. 

Young activists are role models for the rest of their generation. Strong public voices such as 18-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg, 24-year-old girl’s education activist Malala Yousafzai, and 14-year-old water access advocate Mari Copeny are motivators for fellow young activists to become involved and to raise their voices. Yousafzai, for example, broke headlines in October 2012 when she was shot in the head for speaking out against the Taliban and advocating for girls’ rights to education. She continues to use her platform to advocate for the education of all girls. Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, inspiring millions across the globe to become proponents of change.

Student activism is essential, as it provides insight into the beliefs of the young people who will eventually inherit the world. Student activists educate their peers and draw attention to world issues that their audiences might not experience first-hand every day. Students who put in the time to educate themselves, form opinions, compare their knowledge and opinions with those of others, and express those opinions on whatever platform they have access to are at an advantage because of their involvement with local, national, and global issues. 

According to NASA, the global temperature has risen 1.18 degrees Celsius since 1880. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this global warming is causing catastrophe for the ocean because of melting glaciers, extreme weather events, air pollution, and ocean acidification. Some of these effects will not be reversible for hundreds to thousands of years—if ever. As a result, activists like Thunberg are calling politicians to end heavy carbon emissions, which affect the global climate. In August 2018, 15-year-old Thunberg protested climate change by participating in a school strike for climate change, standing outside Sweden’s Parliament building until their election. She has brought more than 10 million people onto the streets worldwide to demand climate action, as well as raised public concern on climate change. In response to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), which took place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, Thunberg called out politicians for profiting from contributors to climate change. Her actions highlight the capability of students to be actively involved in issues that they fervently desire further attention to be called to. 

An important aspect of student activism is getting as involved as possible. There are many ways to do so. Students can volunteer with organizations and events like Gobble Gobble Give, a holiday volunteer opportunity to make care bags and prepare food for homeless people. This experience is beneficial because students get the chance to actively participate in helping others and spreading awareness of a local situation. Attending protests and rallies is also a great way to become involved. On Oct. 2, 2021, Women’s March ATX hosted a rally to protest against Texas’ abortion bill, where girls as young as 8 years old stood up and expressed their opinions. 

On a local level, students can participate in school clubs, which enable students to surround themselves with like-minded peers and discuss what they feel passionately about. LASA has clubs like the Women’s Rights Club and Feminism Club, which have both taken action this school year to promote awareness on issues, such as providing free feminine hygiene products in school bathrooms. There are also groups such as Teens 4 Equality, a group that protests systemic racism and police brutality in which student activists can get involved. Teens 4 Equality was started by six teenage girls who wanted to speak up following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. They set up one of the largest peaceful protests in Nashville, which shows that it’s possible to make a difference even with a small number of people. 

Another way to get involved is through reposting and sharing information on social media. Many reputable sources like The New York Times and National Geographic share information on platforms such as Instagram. Resharing reputable posts will allow for your friends and family to view and share them on their own accounts. Many people get their news from social media, so the more interaction they have with informational posts, the more they’ll be aware of global and current arguments. Younger generations also rely heavily on social media for connection and communication. One repost can spiral into a collection of reposts, with each one gaining a wider reach of views. With so much interaction taking place online today, sharing information through social media is a great way to get it out there and spread awareness. However, it must be noted that digital activism can also risk misinformation and selective reporting. Taking steps to ensure one’s sources of information come from reputable sources is crucial to making social media a productive battleground for student activism.

Students’ voices play a role in the education and experiences of their peers. What young people hear in the stages of growing up affects their outlook on life and their environments. The awareness surrounding global issues facing today and the future are dependent upon the youth’s mentalities. Student activism is key because it sets the stage for what’s in store for this coming generation’s future, encapsulated through the action and awareness of the social, political, racial, and ethical issues raging today.